Keep those tough-to-please teens amused with active breaks in North Africa, says Katie McGonagle
If there’s one thing worse than being a teenager, it’s being the parent to one – not least when it comes to the family holiday.
Those pre-adolescent years, when the biggest priorities were a kids’ club and sandy beach, suddenly seem like a piece of cake now there are so many conflicting concerns.
They want independence, but you want them to stay safe; they want to keep busy, but you need time to relax; and you want them to have fun, but without bankrupting the family in the process.
The beaches and bazaars of North Africa offer a solution to this delicate balancing act. These adventure playgrounds are home to enough exciting activities to keep troublesome teens happy, but with just a short-haul flight and competitive pricing, theywon’t tax parents’ wallets too much either.
Here, we offer a handful of options, from teen-focused tours to action-packed beach breaks and add-on excursions.
ESCAPE TO EGYPT
It’s been a tough time for this family favourite, as faltering consumer confidence prompts a shift to alternatives such as Morocco and Jordan. But operators have been singing with one voice as they emphasise it’s business as usual for Egypt’s coastal resorts.
Sabina Shaida, founder of Mosaic Holidays, says: “It is important for agents to be aware that political demonstrations and clashes in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Alexandria are localised and are not affecting visitors staying in Egypt’s popular Red Sea resorts. Egypt should be at the front of agents’ minds, particularly as hotels and resorts are offering compelling deals to attract holidaymakers back.”
The choice of hotel product and activities are a worthy reminder of why Egypt was such a family hit in the first place. In Hurghada, Red Sea Holidays singles out Sunwing Waterworld Makadi Hotel, where the on-site water park has exhilarating waterslides such as the AquaLoop with its near-vertical drop, plus giant flumes and a waterfall.
Family holidays are also the perfect time to try new hobbies. Thomas Cook Style Collection’s Palm Royale Soma Bay offers introductory sessions to try windsurfing, kite-surfing, scuba diving, sailing, fishing and horse riding. Olympic Holidays also recommends diving in these world-renowned waters, and can pre-book Discover Scuba Diving taster courses for £75.
Richard Ward, diving specialist at Olympic, says: “Sharm offers an excellent mix of wreck and reef diving, with competition among the dive companies keeping prices at a good level. Red Sea dive centres offer introductory courses at no great cost, along with a range of options leading to qualifications.”
TUNISIA ON TOP
If Tunisia’s example is anything to go by, Egypt can rest easy. After a drop-off in interest following the Jasmine Revolution, things looked bleak for this beach beauty, but operators are reporting a resurgence as confidence returns.
Joanna Wild, managing director of Thomas Cook’s high street stores, says: “Tunisia is back on the map for package holidays in 2013, offering great value, fantastic quality and superb weather.”
For a busy beach break, the operator recommends Sahara Beach in Skanes from its Airtours Sunsplash brochure, which will add new water slides this summer, and has a choice of basketball, football, archery, canoeing and sailing in its all-inclusive packages. On a practical level, it offers interconnecting rooms so teenagers (and parents) can find a little space, and is introducing free Wi-Fi so the teens don’t miss out on their social media fix.
Don’t forget the adventures in Tunisia’s vast deserts too. Thomson Excursions’ Desert Discovery is a whistle-stop tour departing Djerba, for village visits, camel riding in traditional Bedouin robes at Douz, and a stop at the troglodyte village of Matmata, familiar to any Star Wars fan as Luke Skywalker’s home (from £44.50, child prices apply to under-12s).
No self-respecting teen wants to hang around with mum and dad all day, so family-focused escorted tours – especially those with dedicated teen departures – offer a chance to mix with others their own age and soak up some culture along the way.
The most popular choice for active holidays is, unsurprisingly, the Atlas Mountains, combining the exotic charms of Marrakech with the traditional way of life in Berber villages plus a good, old-fashioned hike to get the blood pumping.
Family specialist The Adventure Company, which reports strong and growing sales of Morocco, has an eight-day Atlas Trails tour starting with a guided walk around Marrakech, then a four-day hike through the mountains with visits to villages and a school in Aremd (from £689 with flights).
G Adventures launched a new family trips programme last week; its Atlas Mountains Family Adventure combines a couple of days’ walking with a visit to the seaside resort of Essaouira, before returning to Marrakech (eight days, from £499 for adults/teens or £459 for under-12s, excluding flights).
For a more challenging hike, the Toubkal Teen Trek from Explore climbs North Africa’s highest mountain; Jebel Toubkal’s summit is 4,167 metres (from £596/£554 with flights, minimum age 11).
Explore’s Rock the Kasbah itinerary ventures into similar territory but adds mule riding high in the Atlas Mountains, cycling on the southern slopes, camel trekking through the Sahara Desert and camping among the sand dunes.
You don’t have to sacrifice home comforts to stay active: Club Med Marrakech La Palmeraie is an action-packed resort where daredevil teens can try the flying trapeze academy, circus activities, tennis and horse riding.
If that’s not enough, bolt on an excursion such as Do Something Different’s camel trek (from £23) to explore the area in true North African style.
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